The Group

Syzygy Ensemble came into being in the summer of 2009, formed by close friends Laila Engle, Julia Stoppa and Leigh Harrold. Things moved pretty quickly after that – in the following twelve months, Syzygy expanded into a quintet, won first prize in the chamber music section of the Australian Concerto and Vocal Competition, and were the only Australian group selected to compete in the 2011 Gaudeamus International Interpreter’s Award in Amsterdam.

Since then, they’ve gained a reputation as one of the finest new music ensembles in Australia, lauded for their virtuoso precision, innovative programming, and the ability to connect viscerally with their audiences. They were nominated for a Helpmann Award in 2012 for a George Crumb tribute concert, and in 2014 they were the recipients of the Melbourne Recital Centre’s Contemporary Masters Award for their performance of Robert Dzubay’s ‘Kukulkan 2’.

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Committed to the heritage works of last century as well as the newest works being written here and now, Syzygy have given critically-acclaimed performances of Schoenberg’s ‘Pierrot Lunaire’ and Messiaen’s ‘Quartet for the End of Time’, as well as being entrusted with the premiere of over 50 new Australian works – most of which have been written especially for them. Apart from having a regular subscription series at the Melbourne Recital Centre, Syzygy has had great success touring regional Australia, allowing remote audiences the chance to experience (and even participate in!) contemporary masterworks such as Schoenberg’s First Chamber Symphony, Riley’s ‘In C’, and Rzewski’s ‘Les Moutons de Panurge’.

Their debut CD, ‘Making Signs’ was released in 2015 to critical acclaim, with The Music Trust calling it “… an important album. Syzygy’s skill, their unity, and their dedication to every piece they perform and study are really special”. Their follow-up album, consisting entirely of works they have commissioned, is scheduled to begin production in 2019.

 
 

The players


 
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Robin Henry

Robin grew up in Melbourne and studied music at the University of Melbourne, learning from Craig Hill. Alongside his studies, Robin played with the Australian Youth Orchestra and the Sydney Sinfonia. In 2005 and 2006, Robin lived in Germany where he studied with Wolfgang Mäder (former solo clarinet at Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra) at the Mendelssohn Hochschule in Leipzig. He completed a Masters degree in 2009 studying with David Thomas. He also holds a Graduate Diploma of Education.

Robin has worked all around Australia in several Opera Australia touring productions. He works with many orchestras and chamber groups including the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Chamber Orchestra and Orchestra Victoria. In the theatre, Robin played the 2014 Melbourne Season of Les Miserables and the 2017 season of My Fair Lady. He also played clarinet and bass clarinet in the 2013 and 2016 Opera Australia productions of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. He has been a member of Syzygy Ensemble since 2015.


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Jenny Khafagi

A member of Syzygy since 2012, Jenny Khafagi is a Melbourne-based violinist and educator with a passion for contemporary practice. She appears regularly in guest leadership and tutti positions with Orchestra Victoria, Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, ACO Collective, Melbourne Chamber Orchestra and Auckland Philharmonia. Jenny has undertaken residencies at Banff’s Centre for the Arts and Creativity, and with Syzygy has appeared at Melbourne Festival, Metropolis New Music Festival, and the Queensland Festival. A passionate educator, Jenny is a core member of the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s ‘Inspire Quartet’, has featured as guest faculty for New Music Week at the University of Western Australia, and in 2018 joined the staff of the Australian Youth Orchestra’s annual National Music Camp.


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Campbell Banks

Campbell Banks is a Hobart-raised cellist now based in Melbourne. He completed a Bachelor of Music with Honours at the Queensland Conservatorium in Brisbane, before relocating to Switzerland for post-graduate study at the Zürich University of the Arts. While in Zürich, he completed a Master of Music – Performance with Raphael Wallfisch and a Master of Music – Pedagogy with Roel Dieltiens, also studying Baroque Cello with Martin Zeller and Jazz Piano with André Desponds.

A winner of an Australian Music Foundation Prize in 2009, Campbell has performed in Wigmore Hall, Konzerthaus Berlin, Amsterdam Concertgebouw and the Zürich Tonhalle; at the 2014 Amsterdam Cello Biennale, the St. Moritz Festival da Jazz with Othella Dallas and with Glen Hansard at the Moon and Stars Festival, Locarno. He was a member of the Australian Youth Orchestra between 2003 and 2007. Within Australia, Campbell has performed with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Victoria and the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra. He is also cellist with the New Palm Court Orchestra.


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Laila Engle 

Melbourne based flautist Laila Engle maintains a busy performance and touring schedule as musician in the Royal Australian Air Force and has travelled extensively throughout Australia and abroad, performing regularly for dignitaries and official ceremonies. Laila holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and Masters of Music from the University of Melbourne studying under Alison Mitchell, Geoffrey Collins, Margaret Crawford and Mardi McSullea. 

A passionate advocate of contemporary Australian music, Laila champions this repertoire through her work as founding member of the award winning chamber music group Syzygy Ensemble and duo with guitarist Ken Murray.


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Leigh Harrold

Born in Whyalla, South Australia, Leigh completed undergraduate and post-graduate studies at The University of Adelaide with concert pianist Gil Sullivan, during which time he was a national finalist in the Young Performer Awards.

He moved to Melbourne in 2003 to take up a full scholarship at the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) under the mentorship of Geoffrey Tozer and in 2004 was made the Academy Fellow. Leigh is now one of Australia’s busiest and most sought-after pianists. Leigh has performed extensively throughout Europe, North America, Africa and Australia as both soloist and chamber musician, including concerts at Australia House in London, the Royal Academy of Music, the Mozarteum in Salzburg, the Harare International Festival of Arts, and concerto engagements with many Australian orchestras. 

His international reputation as an associate artist has led to collaborations with such luminaries as Thomas Reibl, lecturer in viola at the Salzburg Mozarteum; Michael Cox, principal flautist with the BBC Symphony Orchestra; Daniel Gaede, ex-concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; London flautist Wissam Boustany; New York violinist Charles Castleman; Swedish soprano Camilla Tilling; and British pianist Mark Gasser, to name just a few. 

In April 2012 he was awarded a PhD for his research into the music of Robert Muczynski, and in 2015 he was published internationally in the Liszt Society of London Journal. He holds two University medals - one for Music and one for Applied Science.

Currently Leigh holds positions on the Faculties of ANAM and the University of Melbourne, and is pianist with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.